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Shootings leave two former students dead in Venice and Santa Monica [Updated]

November 4, 2009 |  6:38 pm
School officials in Santa Monica and Venice counseled grieving students today and were cautioned to be on alert for suspicious activity after two former students were slain in separate shootings Tuesday.

The two killings occurred several hours apart in Venice's Oakwood neighborhood and in the Pico neighborhood in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica police arrested and booked four people in connection with the shooting in that city. Sgt. Dave Hunscke, citing the ongoing investigation, declined to say what the suspects were booked on or whether the two killings were connected.

[Updated 6:52 p.m.: Capt. Joe Hilton of the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division said investigators didn't know if the shootings were connected. He said LAPD and Santa Monica detectives were aggressively pursuing the cases in an effort to make sure there was no chance of the violence escalating.]

William Charles McKillian Jr., 19, was in the 600 block of Westminster Avenue in Venice when he was confronted by at least one attacker who opened fire about 3:30 p.m. No arrests have been made, the LAPD said.

Shortly before 9 p.m., Richard Manuel Juarez, 20, was at a bus stop with three Santa Monica High students on Pico Boulevard in front of Virginia Avenue Park when two people walked up and began shooting, officials said.

The three students ran away and were not hit, officials said, but Juarez was struck at least once. He was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.

The two assailants, along with two people in a car, were arrested after a patrol officer heard gunshots and saw two people running from the park area, police said.

Juarez was a graduate of Olympic High School, said Oscar de la Torre, a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board

 "He was a good kid with a bright future," said De la Torre, who knew Juarez because he was involved with the Pico Youth & Family Center, which offers music and education classes to Santa Monica youth. (De la Torre is the center's director.)

A Los Angeles Unified School District memo was sent this afternoon to teachers in Venice, alerting them about the two shootings and asking them to watch for any suspicious activity. The memo said McKillian attended Venice High for a short period.

De la Torre and center staff members, meanwhile, were at Santa Monica High trying to calm students and urging them to let the police investigation take its course. He said students and others in the community were concerned that the two shootings might be connected.

 "We're trying to help these young people," he said. "The message is that revenge continues the cycle of violence."

-- Robert J. Lopez reporting from Venice/Santa Monica and Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles